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Who Are You And Why Are You Here?

March 5, 2017

My plan is to examine and scrutinise the V&A visitor in the most judgemental way possible.They are my objects. This is consistent with my view of a purely material humanity. In that we are a particular collection of atoms in a very particular order. We have consciousness but I am skeptical that this comes from outside of the material realm. I will present one of the cast of characters I observed in the museum.

Whenever I reach a high precipice I always seem to think: ‘I could throw myself off here’, and I don’t completely trust myself not to. So I usually back away. But today at the balcony above the Medieval and Renaissance rooms I’m persevering. One of the people below me will be my charge, I’m not sure who yet though.

I’ve chosen.

A solitary man is slowly and carefully examining each artefact -like how I’m examining him I suppose-. He’s spectacled, probably in his mid-30’s with a slight bald spot . He has a cream sports jacket slung over his left shoulder, on the other side he totes a blue tote bag and according to it he’s ‘on natures side’. The man is traversing the room in a thorough manner, intensely watching an object for a while whilst pulling on his black beard, then he reads the label before turning his gaze back to the thing again for a long moment, and then he moves on.

I think its worth scrutinising the sports jacket in more detail. An interest in sports is a good sign of a well grounded person. Every watcher of sports knows that it is arbitrary, pointless and meaningless. But they watch anyway. & not only watch. They can be overcome by anger, ecstasy, disgust, uncontrollable roars and feet stomping. The only time I’ve actually ever jumped with joy was upon winning a rugby game after two seasons of straight defeats. Sport can be a worthwhile case study in finding purpose in an arbitrary life.

Seeing the endurance of this man’s curiosity, I’m reminded of something I heard on a podcast last week. That a purpose to life can be found in the “organisation of things, putting molecules together in ways that wouldn’t happen without a life to put them together in that way . Fighting against entropy basically.” Making things is a small and arbitrary act of temporary defiance against the cascading descent into messiness, disorder and chaos in the universe. The V&A is a stadium for this. For the making of things which didn’t exist before. To borrow from William Faulkner’s Nobel prize banquet speech (also in the podcast) “I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work – a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before.”

The room stinks with the scent of old wood. Not only is this a pleasure for everybody’s olfactory sense but I think it’s interesting. Time peels microscopic jigsaw pieces of say the wooden Jesus below me, they float around the room and then we inhale them. When we’re smelling old stuff we are physically consuming the items as well as intellectually consuming them. And when we leave the museum we carry little bits of the artefacts we’ve seen/smelt with us.

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